Physicians' Perceptions of Barriers to Equal Access to Reproductive Health Promotion for Women with Mobility Impairment

  • Meera Joseph
  • Sujen Saravanabavan
  • Jeff Nisker Prof. Obstetrics and Gynaecology Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry Western University
Keywords: Physicians' perceptions, mobility impairment, women's health, disability rights, medical education


In Canada, 15% of women report having a disability, most frequently mobility-related. Research with women with disabilities has for decades brought attention to barriers to reproductive health promotion. Research with physicians regarding why these barriers exist and how they can be dissolved has not occurred. Physicians were recruited through email and pamphlets to participate in 30-45 minute in-person interviews, audiotaped and transcribed verbatim.  Charmaz-based qualitative analysis was supported by NVivo10TM software. Twenty-five interviews were conducted before theoretical sufficiency. Six themes were co-constructed: I-Physicians’ Perceptions of Barriers; II-Physicians' Perceptions of Consequences of Barriers; III-Resolving Barriers; IV-Physicians’ Sub-Understanding of Legal Right to Accommodation; V-Obligation of Physicians to Advocate for Accommodation; and VI-Language Suggesting Physicians’ Lack of Understanding of How Persons with Disabilities See Themselves and Want to be Seen. Physicians identified physical access barriers previously identified in critical disability studies literature, but did not identify the barriers of physician attitudes and lack of information provision as reported in this literature. Physicians perceived their additional time for pap smears and other surveillance strategies as barriers, particularly when not remunerated. Physicians were unaware of their legal obligation to accommodate under human rights codes, perceiving that taking extra time to provide accommodation was doing so out of the "goodness of your heart". Physicians used language illustrating many were unaware of how disabled persons see themselves and want to be seen. Education regarding disability rights and culture must be introduced immediately and prominently into all levels of medical education, with the educators being people with disabilities. 

Author Biography

Jeff Nisker, Prof. Obstetrics and Gynaecology Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry Western University

Prof. Obstetrics and Gynaecology 

Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry

Western University


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